Florida Businessman Pleads Guilty in Connection with Venezuela Bribery Scheme
HOUSTON – A partial owner of several Florida-based energy companies pleaded guilty today to foreign bribery charges for his role in a scheme to corruptly secure contracts from Venezuela’s state-owned and state-controlled energy company, Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA).
Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez of the Southern District of Texas, Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Special Agent in Charge Mark Dawson of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations’ (ICE-HSI) Houston office made the announcement.
Fernando Ardila Rueda (Ardila), 49, of Miami, Florida, pleaded guilty in federal court in Houston to one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and one count of violating the FCPA. U.S. District Judge Gray H. Miller accepted the guilty plea. Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 8, 2018.
According to admissions made in connection with his plea, Ardila conspired with U.S.-based businessmen Abraham Jose Shiera Bastidas (Shiera) and Roberto Enrique Rincon Fernandez (Rincon) to pay bribes and other things of value to PDVSA purchasing analysts. The bribes were paid to ensure that Shiera’s and Rincon’s companies were placed on PDVSA bidding panels and in order to obtain or retain business with PDVSA. From 2008 through 2014, while he was sales director, manager and partial owner of several of Shiera’s companies, Ardila provided entertainment and offered bribes to PDVSA officials based on a percentage of the value of contracts the officials helped to award to Shiera’s companies.
Including Ardila, the Justice Department has announced a total of 10 individuals have pleaded guilty and are pending sentencing as part of a larger, ongoing investigation by the U.S. government into bribery at PDVSA.
ICE-HSI is conducting the ongoing investigation with assistance from IRS - Criminal Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys (AUSA) John Pearson and Robert S. Johnson of the Southern District of Texas are prosecuting the case along with Trial Attorneys Aisling O’Shea and Jeremy R. Sanders of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. AUSA Kristine Rollinson of the Southern District of Texas is handling the forfeiture aspects of the case.
The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs and the Swiss Federal Office of Justice also provided assistance.